Flip-Flops’ Messy Side

How to fight flip-flop foot filth.

For the Chicago Tribune.

chicago-tribune-logo-2They may be the shoes of the moment, but flip-flops don’t do much to protect your piggies from the grime lurking on subway platforms, crowded escalators and Wicker Park sidewalks. If you drop $50 to $100 on a pair of Sigerson Morrisons, you don’t want your style statement spoiled by blackened heels and grubby toes.

How do the savvily shod ward off foot filth? Pedicurists offer several suggestions.

Several sources tout the value of Dove Body Refreshers. Dove’s sheets are packaged in a portable, resealable pouch that can be easily toted for mid-morning cleanups. Since they’re alcohol-free and rich with moisturizer, they pamper your soles even as they tidy them.

Ji Baek, owner of New York’s Rescue salon and a self-confessed germophobe, markets her own antibacterial wipes. “Metropolitan cities are kind of gross — public transportation and cabs and whatnot,” she says. “The only wipes that were available were, like, huge diaper wipes that were not attractive. It was a big, clunky thing you had to schlep around. I wanted to do something individual that you could always have with you.”

Baek’s wipes, available at http://www.rescuebeauty.com, are individually wrapped to fit into the smallest purse or pocket. They’re $18 for a package of 30.

For a low-budget alternative, Purell sells a similar item in boxes of 20. At 5 inches by 7.5 inches, they fall into the category of the “huge diaper wipes” that Baek deplores, but on the other hand, they’re only $2.99 a box at http://www.drugstore.com.

“If your feet are rough, like sandpaper, think about what sticks onto that,” says Yolanda Rodgers, director of the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. She extols the virtues of regular pedicures and exfoliation to maintain silky, dirt-repellent skin.

At home, she suggests you use Phytomer Exfoliating Gommage Cream, available at the spa for $45. “It’s a body cream with some particles in there. You actually scrub it in, let it dry like a mask and wash it off. Do that two or three times a week,” she says.

After a long day of flaunting flip-flops, you don’t want to hit the sheets without deploying a good, stiff scrub brush and pumice stone. Last but not least, give yourself a break. No one’s toes are immune to the menace of urban grime.

“No matter how clean you are, just walking around, you’re going to get dirt underneath your sandals,” Rodgers says. “Unfortunately, I know that from personal experience.”

–Etelka Lehoczky, 2003